Alysa Liu: 5 things you didn’t know about the 15-year-old figure skater

Not yet old enough to skate at the senior level internationally, the two-time U.S. champ already owns several records. And is friendly with Jimmy Fallon.

By Nick McCarvel

At 13 years old, Alysa Liu was already the U.S. national champion in figure skating in January 2019. Next stop: Late-night TV.

Liu, a native of California’s Bay Area, hopped onto The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon after her historic victory, which had made her the youngest-ever U.S. woman to win nationals, breaking Tara Lipinski’s record from 1997.

“How do you stay focussed?” Fallon asked in faux hard-hitting style during Liu’s appearance, one of the many not-so-typical teenage experiences she’s had due to her success at a young age.

The “firsts” are many: First woman to win two U.S. titles by age 14 (she’s now 15); first American woman to successfully land a quadruple Lutz in competition; and the first female skater to land a triple Axel and quad jump in the same program.

But what don’t you know about this Beijing 2022 hopeful? We’ve got the Jimmy Fallon appearance and four other tidbits to know on Alysa.

'Tonight,' 'TODAY' and TIME

Liu went on a media tour after her victory in Detroit at the 2019 U.S. Championships, wide-eyed and grinning ear-to-ear.

“I just focus on myself,” Liu told Fallon in response to the aforementioned question. She then taught the comedian her pre-program warm-up routine, which includes a series of hops and landing on one foot. The two tried it out together (see at the 3-minute mark below).

Liu also appeared on the morning show TODAY, saying the celebrity she’d most like to meet is Michelle Kwan (Goal: Accomplished.) and that her favourite pop artists are Ariana Grande and Billie Eilish.

Her fame hasn't been limited to the ice or TV, either: In 2019, TIME magazine named Liu to its "100 Next List." Kwan penned the essay on Alysa: "(She) has a long and bright future."

Too young – but growing

While she was a national champion at 13 and 14, Liu is still too young to compete at the senior level internationally. In fact, her debut senior season will come in the lead-up to the Beijing 2022 Winter Games, which she’s pinned as her ultimate goal.

At the junior level, Liu has three medals on the Grand Prix Series and placed third at the 2019 edition of junior worlds.

While she’s still too young for seniors, she’s experienced quite the growth spurt: From 2019 to 2020 she grew from 4-foot-7 (139cm) to 5 feet (152cm). “I just went from really short to very short,” she told NBC Sports.

"I just went from really short to very short." -Alysa Liu

Still a kid? Already a role model

While Liu might not yet have her driver’s license, she’s already someone many young girls look up to. In October of 2019, she and Lipinski joined forces for the 60th birthday of the favourite kids’ toy Barbie, serving as “be anything” role models for young children.

“I was an influencer, you could say,” a smiling Liu said at Skate America in 2019. “The event was really fun. Some of the kids were really cute.”

Liu also joined Olympic gold medal skier Lindsey Vonn on stage at the 2019 Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Sports, Liu helping to present an award to Vonn.

Alysa Liu on stage with Lindsey Vonn

Bay Area connection

While Liu trains in San Francisco and Oakland with Olympic ice dancer Massimo Scali and a team of coaches via webcam in Toronto, she’s got quite the connection to skating’s past – there and beyond.

Calgary 1988 gold medallist and SF resident Brian Boitano often gives her advice when they see each other at the rink, particularly on her jumps.

She’s also met childhood hero Kwan, a fellow native Californian, as well as Albertville 1992 winner Kristi Yamaguchi, who lives nearby, too. In October 2020, Yamaguchi awarded Liu with a training grant, called the Always Striving Grant.

And who influenced Liu to pick up skating in the first place? That was Kwan, said her father.

Not-so-social media

While TikTok is taking the teenage world by storm (and beyond), Liu has opted off of social media for the most part, having initially been active on the popular platform, often sharing dances from home.

“I used to like (social media) a lot but not so much anymore,” she told U.S. Figure Skating. “Social media is exhausting.”

She still does have an Instagram account with nearly 45,000 followers, however, though she hasn’t posted since February 2020. Ice cream - well, gelato - anyone?